Don’t you just hate it when you think you’re pretty smart, and all of a sudden you realize you’re an idiot?
Yeah. Me too.
Especially when it happens in a room full of other teachers. It’s a little disheartening, to say the least.
Let me give you a little glimpse into the Attack of the Killer Acronyms.
It seems that a few years ago, the federal government (the USDOE) became upset with our state education department, (the MADESE) because of its failure to help our ELLs make progress on the MCAS. So the USDOE formed a consortium called the RETELL to make a plan. RETELL then ordered the MADESE to train all of its teachers to become SEI certified.
You with me so far?
So I signed up to earn my SEI Endorsement under RETELL. Of course, to enroll in RETELL, I had to go to the MADESE ELAR page. And naturally, I wanted to put the SEI on my IPDP. I did all that, and felt pretty darn good about life. I was almost sure that the IPDP (fondly referred to by teachers as the “Ippdip”) had something to do with keeping my teaching license and I thought that “RETELL” must mean something about repeating a good joke.
When the day finally rolled around, I went to the class and greeted my colleagues. I’m pretty interested in languages and language development, and I’m eager to help my non-English speaking students. So I was looking forward to learning more about them. Plus, I like a good joke.
Within a half hour, though, my head was spinning, and I was feeling like a complete idiot.
The nice instructor lady was showing us slides and guiding us through the text book that went with the class. And she was moving really fast. REALLY fast.
“OK”, she said as the class started. “So the RETELL is intended to make sure that every teacher can provide SEI to our ELLs using ESL and ELE. They need to be helped to pass the ACCESS (which used to be the MEPA, just like the PARCC used to be the MCAS).”
Uh. Ok…….so, SEI for ELL with ESL and ELE….got it…..ACCESS not MEPA……My mouth was getting a little dry, and I was glancing furtively around at the other teachers. Did they understand what this was all about? At this point, I wasn’t sure exactly what was a test, what was a kid and what was a book……
I gulped and tried to stick with the discussion. I was sure that after a while it would start to make some sense. That was when we turned to a discussion of standards. We heard that the WIDA was sort of the CCSS for the ELLs. Wait, what? WIDA?
My left eye began to twitch.
I was trying to take notes, but when I tried to jot down ELL, I sometimes got mixed up and put ELE or ESL instead.
There certainly seemed to be a lot of E’s and L’s around here!
The teacher guided us into small groups where we began to read about the changes in the educational law that had lead to the current RETELL situation. (Or was it the SEI situation? Crap. I’m not sure.) I know a little bit about education law, so I gave a small sigh of relief and started to read.
And you know I found out? That a law passed in the early 2000’s stated that “In order to provide services to an LEP, a teacher must have demonstrated ELP.”
I’m not kidding. I didn’t want to seem stupid, but it was starting to feel like a big spilled bowl of alphabet soup. I turned to the attractive, intelligent high school teacher beside me. She didn’t look dazed and confused. I felt so inferior. I decided to bluff.
“Obviously”, I said to her with what I hoped sounded like supreme confidence. “If you want to teach an LEP, you’d have to be ELP. Right? I mean, really!” I lifted my palms up, showing how silly it would be for a non ELP to try to teach an LEP. My colleague frowned a bit, “Well, of course, ” she agreed, “Unless the student is a FLEP.”
My jaw dropped. As the high school smarty pants turned to talk to the instructor, both my eyelids were twitching. I decided not to say another word. I think I might have been drooling a little.
After a few minutes of deep breathing, I tuned back into the classroom discussion. The instructor seemed to be talking about vocabulary growth. Hooray! A subject I actually understood! I sat up straighter. I looked at the screen in the front of the room.
And I read, “How to differentiate between BICS and CALPS in an ELL under SEI.”
My forehead hit the table as I slumped into a friendly little coma.
Glossary of terms. Really. No, I didn’t make these up.
ELL= English Language Learner aka LEP= Limited English Proficient ESL= English as a Second Language ELE= English Language Education ELP=English Language Proficient FLEP= Formerly Limited English Language SEI=Sheltered English Immersion also Sheltered English Instruction RETELL=Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners ACCESS for ELLS=Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners. MCAS= Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System WIDA= Word Class Instruction Design and Assessment BICS=Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills CALPS=Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency CCSS=Common Core State Standards